Friends, family members and fans continued to mourn the death of Jeff Buckley
at a memorial service that was open to the public, held Friday night in Brooklyn Heights. The public memorial came a day after a private ceremony (see Sat., Aug. 2 news report) held on Thursday night and attended by artists including Elvis
Costello and Marianne Faithfull.
Hardly a public memorial, the Friday event was instead an intimate gathering attended by a
close community who knew and admired the young singer.
There was no media circus, no television crews present. The
500 people who quietly filed into St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church at dusk
Friday were mostly young, contemporaries of Buckley. This was a group of people that, if circumstances were different, would be attending a friend's wedding rather than his funeral.
Buckley's strong ties to New York City included not only friends, but
involvement in and contribution to the Greenwich Village folk scene. Touring
took him away from New York, but he always returned and last February he
played what would be his last show in New York at Arlene's Grocery, a small,
but popular venue in the city.
St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church was a spot that according to the church's
artistic director, Buckley had loved and played at numerous times. Many
unfamiliar with his talent first witnessed Buckley's extraordinary voice and
style when he played there at a 1991 tribute to his late father, Tim Buckley,
who died of an accidental drug overdose at age 28.
For those who knew Jeff Buckley well, Friday's memorial service had personal touches
that commemorated the late singer's ambitious spirit and love of life. High
above the head of mourners hung a silver, glittering disco ball. Small,
pastel-colored kazoos were handed out, along with yellow guitar picks etched
with his name. Mourners were also given a pamphlet graced with a quote by the
Russian poet Pushkin:
"Not all of me is dust
"Within my spirit, safe from the worm,
"My spirit will survive."
Through letters, poems, and stories, family and friends took turns at the
altar, sharing their grief and shock, and above all, the many reasons they
loved and missed Jeff, or "Scotty," as he was called by those close to him. A
small, white and blue urn rested on the altar, dwarfed in size next to Jeff's
Fender guitar, which stood propped up among white calla lilies and candles.
Beyond the altar was a 20-foot screen that showed a picture of the singer
leaning against a mirror, his face sharply focused on one side, blurred in
Music celebrated the late singer's life with Buckley's drummer Parker
Kindred (who joined the band this past winter), guitarist Michael Tighe,
Nathan Larson of Shudder to Think and Buckley's girlfriend Joan Wasser, on
violin, playing an instrumental song at the altar. Musician Rebecca Moore
also played a solo piano piece.
On the large screen played the video for "So Real," one of the songs off
Buckley's 1995 smash album Grace, the record that launched his career as a
strong new presence in alternative rock.
One family member spoke of Buckley's musical success, reminding those at the
memorial service that the media would most likely turn Jeff Buckley into another rock
icon, to ultimately serve their own journalistic purpose, but that the public would
never truly know him.
A video, made by his record label, was also shown that included footage of
Buckley speaking candidly about singing, writing, and the process of making
the album Grace.
The church was filled with only the sound of his
voice as he smiled and talked into the camera: "Songs are just basically poems, and poems come from dreams, or thoughts."
Everyone sitting in the pews grew still; many
wept as they watched an animated and very alive Jeff Buckley on the large
screen in front of them. Still, tears were followed by some laughter, when
Buckley was shown goofing off and making jokes to the camera.
Despite the enormous amount of sadness that permeated the church, many of
those who spoke at the altar recalled Buckley's endless capacity for humor and
playfulness. Those attending were asked to play "You Are My Sunshine," on the
tiny plastic kazoos. Everyone joined in; a bittersweet and wonderfully
childlike way to remember the artist's energetic spirit.
Above all, Friday's service hopefully provided some inspiration and healing
to those who loved and knew Jeff Buckley. On the back of the pamphlet was a poem by Jeff's mother, Mary Guibert, which ended with the following line:
"And if, when you go to that silent, certain place in your heart, you find
there a Promise you can make that gives you a higher purpose in life, then
make the strongest vow you've ever made, and just maybe, together we'll be
able to repair the damage done to this lowly world by the untimely passing of
this gentle minstrel."